Nowadays, due to the increase in average life expectancy, medics are under pressure to deliver a greater volume of health care services for patients. This often creates a lack of temporal and other resources among health care professionals. Therefore, such technologies as telehealth can prove useful to facilitate information transfer between medics and patients, and to enable health care specialists to save time while providing effective and convenient service when it comes to transfer of information (Toh, Pawlovich, & Grzybowski, 2016). This paper offers criteria for assessing a possible use of telehealth, and then carries out such an evaluation.
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The Element of Health Care Technology to Be Considered
The element of telehealth that will be described is the possibility of its use for the purposes of providing diabetes self-management education for patients (Young et al., 2014). According to Hanlon et al. (2017), telehealth can be defined as “any use of information and communication technology to facilitate communication or transfer of information between patient and health care provider over a distance” (p. e172). Therefore, the element of telehealth in question is to be understood as any utilization of IT and communication technologies with the purpose of enabling health care specialists to provide patients with education pertaining to self-management of diabetes. It should also be noted that to evaluate the effectiveness of the use of telehealth for this purpose, it is possible to measure its impact, for instance, the changes in medication and diet compliance after the use of telehealth for diabetes self-management education by diabetic patients (Young et al., 2014).
Criteria for Assessing the Method
To assess the convenience of the method of telehealth itself, and to assess the user-technology interface when employing telehealth for the purpose of providing patients with diabetes self-management education, it is possible to use such elements as a) the ease of use, b) the absence of errors, and c) the flexibility of telehealth with respect to data transfer, as criteria for the evaluation (Fitzner, Heckinger, Tulas, Specker, & McKoy, 2014). More specifically, employing the criterion of ease of use means that the utilization of this technology will be evaluated by taking into account how easily different categories of individuals with diabetes can use it to obtain education about their diabetes self-management; this is quite important due to the fact that some patients, such as those of advanced age, may often face a wide array of difficulties when attempting to utilize innovative technologies. The criterion of absence of errors means that it is needed to assess how often, if ever, the telehealth technologies fail to work appropriately (for instance, not transferring the sent messages to the recipient) when used in order to provide diabetes self-management education for patients. Finally, the criterion of the flexibility of telehealth with respect to data transfer means that it should be considered whether a wide range of types of messages can be sent and received by the patient and the medic supplying diabetes self-management education for that patient (i.e., text, sound, video, the transfer of files, or all the listed types of communication).
The Evaluation of Telehealth According to the Criteria
It is possible to provide an assessment of user-technology interface of an instance of the use of telehealth for delivering diabetes self-management education according to the criteria described above. For example, such a program as Skype can be used to supply such services for diabetic patients. Skype is a piece of application software that is aimed at enabling its users to send instant text messages (in chat) and make voice and video calls. It can be installed on PCs, mobile devices, tablets, and so on.
When it comes to the criterion of ease of use, most young individuals who have some experience of use of modern information technologies should probably have no trouble when using Skype for communicating with their physicians or nurses; however, middle-aged individuals and especially people of advanced age might experience problems and difficulties if they are to employ such technologies, and may require the assistance of others to be able to use it properly. Generally speaking, because diabetes is often found in individuals who are not young (Sardu, Marfella, & Santulli, 2014), the simplicity of use could be a problem when utilizing Skype.
As for the absence of errors, it should be noted that Skype is known to sometimes lag when sending text messages or making video calls. However, the textual data that is sent via this application is lost quite rarely. Therefore, it might be possible to conclude that Skype may also have a problem when it comes to the absence of errors, which may be important when it is needed to make a video call. However, it is usually possible to make a video call at a later time.
Finally, when speaking about the flexibility of Skype with respect to data transfer, it is possible to observe that this application is quite flexible in this. This is due to the fact that this application can be utilized for sending all the main types of messages – text messages, voice, and video, as well as file attachments. Therefore, it can be concluded that Skype performs rather well when it comes to assessing its flexibility with respect to data transfer.
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Thus, it appears that Skype might be used quite effectively for supplying diabetes self-management education for patients. Of course, it still might be needed to take into account individual skills and preferences of patients when considering whether to use Skype for this purpose.
Practicable Suggestions for Improving the Performance
It is possible to propose ways to improve the use of Skype for providing diabetes self-management education for patients according to the described criteria (Fitzner et al., 2014). When it comes to the ease of use, it is generally difficult to teach elderly patients to use any information technologies, so Skype is not unique in its problems (Toh et al., 2016). To better deliver patient education via Skype, it might be possible to ask the relatives of the patient, if any are available, to help with conducting video calls (although text messaging still might pose a problem). As for the absence of errors, it is probably impossible for health care professionals to improve Skype; it will be needed to wait for new updates that would address the bugs in the software. However, a video call often can be postponed, and such issues as problems with connection are not unique for Skype. Finally, when it comes to the flexibility of Skype with respect to data transfer, it should be noted that it can transfer all the main types of data mentioned (text, audio, video, file transfer), and does not require further improvement, at least on part of health care professionals.
On the whole, a variety of criteria (such as the simplicity of use, the absence of errors, and the flexibility with respect to data transfer) can be employed to evaluate a health care technology such as telehealth. It should also be stressed that using Skype as a telehealth means for providing diabetes self-management education for patients might be a viable option when assessing it from the perspective of the three described criteria.
Fitzner, K. K., Heckinger, E., Tulas, K. M., Specker, J., & McKoy, J. (2014). Telehealth technologies: Changing the way we deliver efficacious and cost-effective diabetes self- management education. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 25(4), 1853-1897.
Hanlon, P., Daines, L., Campbell, C., McKinstry, B., Weller, D., & Pinnock, H. (2017). Telehealth interventions to support self-management of long-term conditions: A systematic metareview of diabetes, heart failure, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cancer. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 19(5), e172. Web.
Sardu, C., Marfella, R., & Santulli, G. (2014). Impact of diabetes mellitus on the clinical response to cardiac resynchronization therapy in elderly people. Journal of Cardiovascular Translational Research, 7(3), 362-368.
Toh, N., Pawlovich, J., & Grzybowski, S. (2016). Telehealth and patient-doctor relationships in rural and remote communities. Canadian Family Physician, 62(12), 961-963.
Young, H., Miyamoto, S., Ward, D., Dharmar, M., Tang-Feldman, Y., & Berglund, L. (2014). Sustained effects of a nurse coaching intervention via telehealth to improve health behavior change in diabetes. Telemedicine and e-Health, 20(9), 828-834.